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Child refugees and migrants suffer most by border restrictions, says UNICEF

2016-03-02

GENEVA, March 1, 2016 – The dire situation unfolding at border points along the Balkan land route, especially in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Greece, has left thousands of children stranded, distressed and at risk of poor health and abuse, says UNICEF.

In the chaos and confusion, children have been forced to sleep outside in the open in squalid conditions for over a week, lacking access to basic services, such as showers and the right food. Families risk separation, and children have been stuck outside transit centres or for hours in trains with no clear destination.

“What I am witnessing here is small children under the age of five stuck in between two fences,” said Jesper Jensen, UNICEF emergency field co-ordinator in Gevgelijia, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “They cannot go forward and they cannot go back – they need shelter and rest and they need to know what lies ahead.”

Due to the rapidly-evolving situation at border transit centres in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UNICEF has been scaling up its response. These activities include facilitating access to water and sanitation facilities, especially for children and small babies, and providing personal hygiene items and food to help children and their families cope amidst distressing conditions.

UNICEF repeats the call for a united, co-ordinated approach by all governments along the primary transit routes and in countries of destination.  No child should have to spend the night without shelter and without access to basic services. 

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About UNICEF

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.